Using Eastern decorative papers torn to small scraps of color, Colombian collage artist Maria Berrio builds her own patterns on canvas using existing graphical designs sourced from faraway Eastern lands. Maria takes notes from her native South American influences, as well as her life and work in Brooklyn, NY. Despite her seemingly magical ability to create order out of shredded chaos, Maria insists there must be an order to her process. “I try to have a separate container for each painting I do where I put all the cut-outs and papers used for that piece. I’ve learned the hard way that without some organization, one can lose hours just trying to find that one paper I knew I had put around there somewhere.” When asked about her path in the art world, she explains that, “an artist isn’t a pose or a pair of paint-spattered jeans waiting for inspiration. Your career and your relationship with your work is a marriage of sorts — there will be ups and downs, but you will both change and grow together.” Take a peek below at the real deal. —Annie
Portrait by Jai Lennard
What’s in your toolbox?
My toolbox is an industrial-sized garbage bin full of rolls and scraps of papers of a huge array of colors, patterns, textures, and origins. Glue, scissors, paintbrushes, utility knives, and sometimes a half-full sippy cup my son left behind are also essential components to my tool kit.
Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ____________.”
What’s on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?
At present Remedios Varo, Marlene Dumas, and Infinity Net by Yayoi Kusama make the top of the list. But the sands of my inspirations are ever-shifting.
How do you keep yourself organized?
I try to have a separate container for each painting I do where I put all the cut-outs and papers used for that piece. I’ve learned the hard way that without some organization, one can lose hours just trying to find that one paper I knew I had put around there somewhere.
If you could have one superhero (or magical) power, what would it be and why?
I spent way more time than I should have thinking about this question. I had thought flying would be cool, but then I remembered that I have a phobia of air travel that has caused me to search for any excuse to delay getting on the plane. Nobody wants a nervous superhero whimpering as she courses through the air. Likewise, stopping time or shooting lightning bolts or converting beer into peanut brittle or whatever would probably make me nervous as well. All the responsibility, or at least all the time spent trying to find circumstances to use this power I’d probably squander. Can I just be a really good salsa dancer instead?
Photo by Jai Lennard
What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist, maker, or designer?
When I was in art school a mentor of mine, Marshall Arisman, once sat me down and asked me to think seriously about whether I wanted to really pursue an art career, to ask myself if I could envision myself as an artist in the distant future. I guess it’s not advice per se, but I would tell any young artist to do the same — to reflect if this is what they want to do for the rest of their lives, and if they do, commit with the entirety of their hearts and souls. An artist isn’t a pose or a pair of paint-spattered jeans waiting for inspiration. It’s a profession that demands a lot of work, a lot of willpower, and it’s an enormous risk. Do it because you love it. Your career and your relationship with your work is a marriage of sorts — there will be ups and downs, but you will both change and grow together. You have to be in it for the long haul.
How do you combat creative blocks?
I combat blocks by using my hands in a repetitive mode while thinking. When I try to conjure up ideas for my next piece I usually sew the borders of blank pieces of papers. I have tons of them, and the act of sewing makes me feel at ease and helps me imagine what is coming next.
Where do you like to look or shop for inspiration?
I usually find inspiration by going for a really long walk through New York City. The electricity of this city, the mishmash of cultures and classes, the hoards of interesting people doing interesting things in a dynamic city of filth and shimmering beauty — that is what inspires me.
If you could peek inside the studio or toolbox of any artist, maker, designer, or craftsperson, whose would it be and why?
Francis Bacon. His last retrospective made me feel sick to my stomach.
What’s on your inspirational playlist at the moment?
Lately I prefer silence.